Criminal Defense

Clearing Your Name An Overview of Expungement

The legal term sounds more like the punishment handed down as part of a death sentence. However, expungement is actually a good thing from the perspective of someone who has endured an arrest or a criminal conviction. The court-ordered process called expungement seals an arrest or a criminal conviction record. By sealing the legal record, courts essentially erase an arrest or a criminal conviction from the official law enforcement record

John Chambers turned to expungement when his job and rental applications kept coming back “denied.”

“I had a few arrests, but no convictions on my record,” John stated during an interview. “The arrests made it very tough to land a good job and find an apartment worth living in. A friend of mine hooked me up with a criminal law attorney who helped me erase every arrest record in my file.”

Many people who have some type of criminal record believe the criminal records stays with them for the rest of their lives. Consequently, they settle for low paying jobs and inferior housing. Expungement turns despair into a shining legal ray of hope.

Also referred to as “setting aside a criminal conviction,” expungement law varies among the 50 states mostly because of how the cases move through the court system.

After you receive an expungement, you do not have to reveal to potential employers or landlords anything that pertains to your criminal record. From simple theft to aggravated assault, an expungement erases the arrests and the time spent answering for the crimes from the judicial record. Potential employers, landlords and academic institutions never discover your arrest and/or criminal conviction record.  Companies that perform background checks will never see your name pop up for committing a criminal offense.

Does Erased Mean Completely Gone?

An expunged arrest or criminal conviction does not mean your criminal past is entirely erased. Specified government agencies have access to arrest and criminal conviction records, including criminal courts and law enforcement departments. The limited access government entities have to criminal records changes the term “sealed” to “under seal.” Some legal proceedings allow expunged criminal records to be part of the sentencing phase of a trial, when a defendant’s past behavior determines the extent of the judicial penalties. Judges also have access to expunged records when deciding on the fate of someone facing deportation.

Expungement Eligibility

Although states have implemented different processes for expungement, most states have established minimum standards for you to qualify for an expungement hearing.

Here are the factors that determine whether you qualify to an expungement hearing:

  • Time span between arrests or criminal convictions
  • Seriousness of the crime for which you seek expungement
  • Number of arrests and criminal convictions
  • Severity of other criminal activity on your record

The seriousness of a crime typically takes precedent for most courts. Someone who broke into an abandon farmhouse to sleep off a drinking binge has a much better chance of having the criminal activity sealed than a criminal who stole vehicles for profit. Courts also heavily weigh the severity of other criminal events to make an expungement decision. Other factors that influence expungement decision include jurisdiction. Some states, such as New York, do not permit the expungement of arrest and criminal convictions for anyone.

Expungement law represents a highly unpredictable judicial process that requires the expertise of an experienced criminal law attorney. An attorney who has litigated numerous expungement cases can direct you down the often complex legal path is takes to get your records sealed from public view. You receive clear advice concerning the legal standards you must meet to remove your criminal history from records accessible to potential landlords and employers.

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